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VDOT, power companies and first responders prepare for winter storm

The Virginia National Guard will be staged along I-81 and Route 460 ahead of the winter weather.

ROANOKE, Va. – Crews are on high alert coordinating their response to the winter storm expected Sunday.

With staffing shortages affecting companies across the country because of the pandemic, VDOT and power companies are making sure they have enough manpower once the storm hits.

The last time it snowed as much as Your Local Weather Authority expects this weekend was in December of 2018.

Now the clock’s ticking until a winter storm hits the region and crews are all hands on deck.

“We are expecting a significant weather event that will cause very dangerous road conditions throughout our region,” said VDOT spokesperson Jason Bond.

Bond said crews are pretreating roads with brine, calling in tree crews to remove downed trees and debris, and bringing in additional staff and contractors.

“We are also supplementing some of our local forces with additional resources from other parts of the state that are not expected to be as hard-hit,” said Bond.

Appalachian Power calling in extra crews too.

“Ahead of the storm, we are also requesting additional help from our sister companies in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana,” said AEP spokesperson Teresa Hall.

She said AEP is closely watching the type of precipitation the region will get.

“One of our main concerns is for heavy, wet snow and ice. Both types of this precipitation can cause utility damage and outages from the weight on the trees and our equipment,” said Hall.

As families hunker down this weekend, VDOT and AEP say you need to be prepared: have food, blankets and candles ready at home and avoid the roads.

“Conditions will deteriorate throughout the storm. It is a prolonged event,” said Bond. “We are certainly taking this seriously and preparing and we need the public to do so also.”

VDOT is also warning about the possibility of snowdrifts and poor visibility on the roads. Bond said it could take a while to clear neighborhood streets, so VDOT is asking for patience.

Roanoke City is warning that emergency response times could be delayed because of the storm, so only call 911 for a medical emergency or fire—not if your power goes out.

Roanoke Fire-EMS is calling in extra first responders and snowplows to clear the way for ambulances and fire trucks.

Chief David Hoback is hoping that since the storm is hitting on a holiday weekend that more people will be safe at home.

“So this timing of the storm is going to be good for us to give us a chance to keep traffic off the road, keep people in place, keep them in their house and let us clear the streets,” said Hoback. “So that’s a good thing.”

About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!